Maria Petschnig: Voyeurism, Intimacy and Fantasy

05/02/2013 07:23 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

On Sunday May 5, On Stellar Rays presents the gallery’s second solo exhibition of Maria Petschnig, including two videos, wall objects and a large-scale immersive installation. Petschnig’s work frequently deals with the intimate, confronting taboos and dominant ideals surrounding gender and sex. By subjugating her own body to the eyes of the camera and the public, Petschnig implicates the spectator in the construction of narrative and character, often going beyond comfortable social conventions.

The title of your new show is Petschnigs'. Is the new work very personal in nature?

I won’t say. The personal for me refers as much to a fantasy in one’s head as to a physical space, a person, memory or an object. The exhibition will include two videos and sculptures, in an elaborate installation to house these works.  

Do the sculptures relate directly to the videos?

There is no direct connection but I believe that the videos inform the sculptures and vice versa. The mattresses in the gallery reinforce the mythology of the ‘Petschsniggle’ video. But each work in the show has taken on a life and process of its own. 

How is your use of found material different in this new body of work?

Since the beginning I have drawn inspiration from stuff from the flea market. May it be absurd underwear to then be included in a performance or found photographs serving me as references for environments in my videos. For this show I superimposed myself into specific snapshots for the ‘Vasistas’ video,  presented alongside found garments that were turned into wall objects

You last project focused on a Russian photographer, and his hobby for photographing women in erotic and staged photos. In this new work, you perform in both videos.  Do you mind you have more control over the work when you are central, both directing and performing?

After a more collaborative project such as the one with Viktor in Saint Petersburg, I was drawn back to my own little immediate surrounding, the mundane and familiar home/bedroom situation which literally is always a place I return. There is something very satisfying about conceiving of new works in privacy for months, before you let anybody into your world.

Your last installation had traces of the domestic (painted walls, upholstered banquette, a messy bedroom).  This installation will be even more immersive.  Can you describe it a bit?  What is the effect you are attempting to create?

In order to be transported into a familiar but somehow unsettling environment I have to transform the White Cube. Most of the time my videos are experienced in a raw or psychological way. They have an obvious physicality in common. While watching I want to increase the awareness of the viewer so I include her/him into the installation. Heighten their senses before manipulating them. Another reason is the voyeur-part, something we all inhabit and something I have been enjoying playing with. Objects and images are hidden, and when exposed, implicate the viewer as a creep. For Petschnigs’ I originally had an oppressive, gloomy rec-room in mind.

You were traveling between Austria, New York, and Paris while making this new body of work.  Do you think the work is influenced by the cultural differences of these cities? Your childhood in Austria figures prominently into one of the videos, yes?

My childhood and the house I grew up in inform the architecture of this show. Since living in New York I have been influenced and formed by the absence of intimate space and have been interested in the fine, delicate line of the private and public. My four-month stay in Paris seems to be responsible for my transition towards working with fabric objects, which I have so far worked only little with. 

What is the best exhibition you have seen recently? What artists are you most excited about?

In general I appreciate work that explores the darker areas of life, work that has to be experienced rather than art, which can easily be explained in words. The duo Justin Lowe/Jonah Freeman produce intense installations and I have been following their work. Sterling Ruby comes to mind. Also I admire the Austrian filmmakers Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl respectively.

Petschnigs' is at On Stellar Rays gallery, from May 5 to June 16, 2013. 

Images: Petschsniggle, 2013, Maria Petschnig